MORRIS COUNTY — Comprehensive legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-Essex, Morris, Passaic) and Senator Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) to strengthen New Jersey’s anti-bullying laws has passed the New Jersey Senate. The bill is named in honor of Mallory Grossman, a twelve-year-old Rockaway resident who committed suicide in 2017 after being bullied.
“Incidents of bullying should not be solely handled by the schools – the problem is much larger than that,” said Pennacchio. “Parents must be engaged in the process as well. This legislation standardizes the reporting process while increasing transparency and accountability at every level. There is no doubt that Mallory’s Law will go a long way to combating bullying in every school in New Jersey.”
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14, a figure partially attributable to cyberbullying,” said Diegnan. “Although New Jersey’s ‘Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights’ is considered to be one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country, students have continued to be victimized, especially on social media, to the point of suicide. Hopefully, this bill will equip schools with the tools to combat this epidemic.”
Senator Pennacchio’s bipartisan legislation, S-3433, would standardize and toughen New Jersey’s anti-bullying laws. It aims to incorporate a broad approach to prevent and respond to bullying in New Jersey schools by increasing the repercussions and ensuring school officials take preventative actions before tragedy strikes.
“‘Mallory’s Law’ requires school and county officials to address bullying situations before an incident escalates into an irreversible tragedy,” added Pennacchio. “Increasing transparency and accountability, while standardizing this process, will help us put an end to this crisis.”
Mallory Grossman’s parents have turned their grief into action, by starting “Mallory’s Army,” a national movement to save other children from the devastating effects of bullying. On December 18, 2017 Senator Pennacchio and his colleagues in the State Senate honored Mallory’s Army for their efforts.
The bipartisan legislation named in tribute to Mallory was introduced in February 2019.
Although New Jersey’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” is considered to be one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the nation, students have continued to be victimized to the point of suicide.
Pennacchio’s legislation would reinforce and intensify the state’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.” The bill was signed into law after cyber harassment led to the tragic suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi in 2010.
Many experts have noted that the growing trend of cyber harassment through cell phones, computers, and interactive video games leaves children today with little escape from bullying, even when in their own homes. Oftentimes, parents don’t realize it’s happening right in front of them.
“We have to do more to protect our kids when bullies can harass them at any time of the day via apps like Snapchat and Instagram, or even when they’re playing video games like Fortnite,” Pennacchio added. “’Mallory’s Law’ will ensure the bully, parents, and the school are made well aware of any incidents, and that proper disciplinary actions are taken before we lose more young lives.”
“Mallory’s Law” would ensure that parents are more involved when their child is accused of bullying. The bill would also direct New Jersey school districts to provide means for parents to complete an online form to report any occurrences of bullying.
The legislation would also require that each school district’s anti-bullying policy must include specific penalties for bullying. Any proven act of bullying would lead to the incident being added to the student’s permanent record.
Under the bill, bullies found culpable of harassment more than three times must attend anti-bullying training with their parents. Law enforcement will also be notified to see if the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice has been violated.
A civil liability may be imposed on the parent of a bully who demonstrates blatant disregard of supervising their child, if their child has been judged to be delinquent of harassment or cyber harassment.
Victims of bullying are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
“Mallory’s family and I worked closely together to create this legislation,” Senator Pennacchio commented. “The State of New Jersey must take every appropriate action to reduce bullying by increasing the strength and transparency of the reporting process. I urge the Governor to sign this legislation into law as soon as possible.”